ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - Rachel Peterson and her fianc, Clifton Botts, clenched hands in the courtroom, their legs shook uncontrollably, their eyes remained closed. The couple was about to hear the verdict in a bizarre stabbing case that seriously injured Botts and nearly took Peterson's life.
It was around 2 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2013. Peterson and Botts were driving through the Westfield Montgomery Mall parking lot with Peterson's mother and 2-year-old daughter riding in the back seat. Upon approaching an intersection, a gray Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution cut the family off. Botts honked his horn at the driver, David Goldberg, 25, of Potomac, Md. Goldberg also had a child in his car, his 1-year-old daughter.
Goldberg reportedly shouted, "Back the f*** off!" Upset, Botts and Peterson followed Goldberg's sporty four-door Mitsubishi around the crowded parking lot. At one point they stepped out of their vehicle, but Goldberg sped away.
Minutes later, while Botts and Peterson were walking toward the Sears store, Goldberg returned, revved his engine and attempted to run the couple over. With his young daughter cradled in a car seat, Goldberg crashed into a parked vehicle, exited his sports car with a silver fold-out knife in hand and charged at Botts. Goldberg used the 5-inch blade to stab the 32-year-old in the upper back, left cheek and right bicep.
"I'm at Nordstrom in the parking lot. I'm watching, there's a guy in a car, he's trying to run down two other people. He got out of his car, he's chasing them down," a female shopper said in a 911 call played during the five-day attempted murder trial.
While running to her fiance's aid, Peterson was also attacked by Goldberg; he slid the sharp knife through her stomach, puncturing a vital internal organ. Doctors performed emergency surgery on the 28-year-old, who is still recovering from the injury.
"She was bleeding profusely. We are lucky she was in close proximity to a hospital, or she could have easily bled out within minutes," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said.
Nine months later, a diverse 12-member jury held Goldberg's fate in its hands. While few contested the 25-year-old's involvement in the road rage incident, some took caution in placing all responsibility on his shoulders.
After 14 hours of scrutinizing deliberations spread over three days, the jury issued a verdict Wednesday. It found Goldberg guilty on 9 of 15 felony counts, including first- and second-degree assault, as well as attempted voluntary manslaughter. However, it did not convict him on two counts each of first- and second-degree attempted murder.
Goldberg, who until now had no criminal record, stared at the defense table as the verdict was read. He wore no expression on his face as sheriff's deputies shuffled him away.
"The verdict recognizes, we believe, the fact that he [Goldberg] was provoked, that he had a genuine fear for himself and his daughter," defense attorney Robert Bonsib remarked.
Throughout the course of trial, Bonsib claimed his client merely acted in self-defense. In fact, Goldberg told police he only kept a knife in his vehicle for emergencies like auto accidents.
"Anybody who has been convicted of charges like this is obviously going to be upset," Bonsib added. "He [Goldberg] still firmly believes that what he did, he had to do under the circumstances, and it's difficult to reconcile that genuine belief with a verdict like this."
"He [Goldberg] wasn't thinking about his child. He was re-engaging himself, and chasing these people down, because I guess the manner in which they had driven their car didn't give him ample respect," McCarthy rebutted.
Following Wednesday's verdict, family members of both Goldberg and the two stabbing victims apologized to each other about the incident and even hugged, trying to make amends. Both parties agreed the "silent victims" in the case were the children who had to witness the brutal incident.
"All I ask is that you please pray for the children that had to endure this all. Please keep them in your prayers during this trying time," Rachel Peterson told a crowd of reporters.
"Sometimes things can get out of control and you might find yourself in a situation that's a life-threatening situation, that you could have never anticipated," McCarthy added. "Mr. Goldberg is going to suffer a huge penalty for what he did."
When asked her thoughts on the verdict, Golderberg's mother, Amy Cutler, told reporters, "One day I will talk, but right now is not that time."
Goldberg faces up to 165 years in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl McCally on Dec. 18.